Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Connecting Children with Nature

There’s no doubt that fishing and camping as a child had an influence in my career choice and implemented a lifelong conservation ethic in me.  In particular, my dad and my oldest sister’s-husband fished with me from a very young age and through my teenage years and family camping excursions occurred often.  Some of my best memories growing up are fishing trips with my Dad in western South Dakota. 

Now that I have a family, spending time outside, camping and especially fishing are activities we want our girls to experience while they’re growing up.  They’re at ages where their curiosity is sky-high and it’s just a matter of getting them out to experience nature and explore.

They both have been fishing before but this year we bought both of them fishing poles in the winter and told them they should get used to using them for the summer during our camping and fishing trips.  After the girls endured an excruciating 5-second introduction of casting by me, the poles were immediately snatched from my hand for their own attempts with a sponge fish or a bobber on the end of the line so nobody gets hurt.  Frustration ensued but after a short period of coaching and correction they both figured it out.  Periodically over the next few months, I would see one or both of the girls with their poles outside casting toward the tree in our front yard, or even the neighborhood kids having a turn at casting.  A few times we had to establish that casting was not something that needed to occur in the living room near breakable items but could happen in the driveway or yard anytime they wanted to practice. 

I was cleaning out our garage this spring and had our camping gear strewn about but was able to capture some of their spontaneity with the poles and excitement for our two big summer camping/fishing trips.  Notice the excellent technique!


Our first trip this summer fishing and camping was a big success!  First I should define success ….. getting the girls out in nature and getting a pole in their hands.  We didn’t catch fish on the trip but here’s some of what we did and talked about:

·        Will we eat what we catch?  This was discussed on the way to the lake with our poles and was a fairly in-depth and long discussion almost exclusively between the girls but they decided that they should if it was big and would not if it was a “kid” fish.  Our youngest had pointed out to me that in the movie Brave that Merida and her mom, Elinor, caught and ate fish together when Elinor was turned into a bear.  I said that our fishing would be similar but different.   

·        Salmon eggs vs. worms vs. lures.  What are lures and how do they look attactive to eat? Our oldest compared lures to earrings like Grandma wears but not the same thing.. a good observation, I thought.

·        Osprey  and what they are doing flying above the lake (we also saw them dive on fish and carry their meals back to eat).  Very exciting!  The girls deducted fish were present in the lake and the potential to catch something was palpable with the osprey successfully “fishing”.    

·        What are those things swimming by the shore? (Newts) Are those fish? (Amphibians) So they are frogs? (Similar). Why aren’t they fish? (scales vs. skin and terrestrial and/or aquatic lifestyle). Will we catch them?  (maybe).  We followed them along the shoreline watching them swim, pop their heads up and search for food.  What do they eat? (good question).  What’s that? (A crayfish)  Is it alive? (after a stick invesitgation by the girls it was determined dead).  Can we touch it? (Sure).  Are there more? (Likely).  Will we catch them? (Maybe).  I said bigger fish likely eat them in the lake which got our older daughter staring into the distance to paint that mental image, which appeared enthralling by her expression.
Anyway, a small snippet of our excursions and all told and we probably fished for a total of 3 hours over our entire camping trip before rainy weather, cold or wind played a role for deciding to move on.  Not as much time fishing as we had hoped but still a huge success and a lot of fun for them. 


If you’re thinking about how to get a kid out fishing or into nature this year there’s always opportunity to be had.  The Service has a great introductory website to just getting kids out in nature here.  Also coming up September 6th from 8:00 am - 1:00 pm is Kid's Fishing Day at Carson NFH (information will be posted  here).  This event is great in that all the poles and gear are provided for the kids, Service staff will help them fish, they are nearly guaranteed to catch something in minutes, the catch is cleaned and bagged, and you might even get a momento like this.
The States of Washington and Oregon do a fantastic job organizing kids fishing events (Oregon and Washington) as well as outlining fishing tactics and locations (Washington and Oregon).   Some of the fishing events require kids to register so it’s best to try and plan a little bit ahead.  
We plan on meeting some of my family in Glacier National Park later this summer for a week of camping, hiking, fishing and just exploring nature.  I know the girls are going to have a great time and we can make some memories. 
Submitted by Rod Engle


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Connecting Kids to Nature: Skyline Crest Youth Come to the Columbia River Fish Office

Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior Department, announced a national initiative earlier this year to engage and inspire young people to connect to nature.  She confirmed her commitment to “welcome a new generation of young people into public land stewardship, into science”.

The Pacific Northwest Region of the Service provided a little funding in “mini-grants” to help deliver on this promise.  So, we partnered with Vancouver Housing Authority Community Family Resource Coordinator Sharon Linn and Skyline Crest Community Health and Wellness Advisor Sara Angelo to help connect underserved inner city kids to nature. 

Our “Take Time to Connect to Nature” project aims to add an innovative component to an inner city low income housing facility by providing hands-on and in the field nature experiences. Using a nearby neighborhood greenspace and field trips to other Pacific Northwest destinations, mentors and volunteers lead youth groups in activities such as a FWS hatchery visit and guided nature bike rides or hikes.  The project is a great collaboration – New Season’s grocery store even teamed up to help provide the kids with healthy, delicious lunches on some of the field trips!

In early July, 20 Skyline Crest youth from ages 7 to 15 came to a three-hour Nature Day at our Columbia River Fisheries Program Office.  Ten of our staff members led the kids through a variety of activities to give them hands-on experience with nature, native species, and scientific methods. 

We were impressed and inspired by how much fun the kids had learning about salmon, owls, and radio telemetry.  They showed so much natural curiosity and a love of science….they had a blast picking out rodent bones from barn owl pellets and dissecting big spring chinook salmon!

They grasped the salmon life cycle, from freshwater to ocean and back again, and made bracelets with various beads representing each life stage.  Creativity and artistic flourish were present as they made “gyotaku” Japanese-style fish art prints to take home.  

The day really underscored that every child is a naturalist…given the opportunity, time and access to the natural world they will apply curious and creative minds to interact with and explore nature.  Who knows what effect these early experiences might have or where they might lead a child to later in life …our job is to make the connection so they have the opportunity to forge their own path.

 Submitted by Amy Horstman and Donna Allard

Monday, July 7, 2014

Working with the City of Portland to Restore Urban Stream Habitat

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services to evaluate the success of aquatic habitat improvements in Tryon Creek.  In 2010, the City of Portland completed a 900-foot off-channel aquatic habitat enhancement along the Willamette River.  Habitat improvements included floodplain connectivity, removal of invasive species, and installation of root wads and boulders. 

In 2012, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an intensive monitoring program to assess community, relative abundance, and temporal use by fish in the improved area.  Sampling occurred monthly throughout the year and weekly in the spring, sampling will continue in July 2014 at the same frequency.  Backpack electrofishing and seining is used to sample from the confluence to the Oregon State Highway 43 culvert.  All captured fish are identified, checked for external markings, measured, and tagged with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag.  Genetic samples collected from salmonids are transferred to the City of Portland.  To determine temporal fish use of the confluence habitat, two PIT tag antennas are installed at the mouth of Tryon Creek.  All PIT tagged fish moving over or through these antennas have the opportunity to be detected and identified before entering or exiting the Willamette River.

Sampling the mouth of Tryon Creek
Resident fish such as adult and juvenile cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and hybrids of the two were identified in the confluence habitat along with outmigrating juvenile steelhead, Chinook, and coho salmon.  Native fish were more abundant than nonnative fish and coho juveniles were the most abundant species observed.  Coho and Chinook were detected emigrating after an average 37-44 days suggesting the habitat serves as a refuge for outmigrating juvenile salmon from elsewhere in the Willamette River basin.  PIT tagged Chinook and coho salmon (originating from upstream locations in the upper Willamette River basin and Eagle Creek) utilized the Tryon Creek confluence as part of their migration.

The Tryon Creek Confluence Habitat Enhancement Project improves aquatic habitat in the lower Willamette floodplain and provides refuge for native fish species.  Information collected from this assessment will aid the City of Portland in determining if the project is meeting its goals, gauging if the site is achieving desired function over time, and improving the design of future projects. 

This project is relatively small compared to the Willamette watershed overall, however, the combined efforts of habitat improvement and fish monitoring lead to a larger product.  This collaboration improves the design of future projects benefitting the entire Willamette River and supports the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. 

 For additional information, please see this factsheet from the City of Portland:

Submitted by Brook Silver